A Prince Enchanted

by

Prince Berkant had begun to behave strangely, his sister Beyza thought. Every day he would saddle one of the stallions and ride out before dawn, returning long after dark with a wild look in his eyes.

At first she believed it was the looming responsibility of one day ascending the throne, but when she tried to speak to him about this he would give her a dreamy, faraway smile and refuse to speak.

She determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. One night she prepared her mare and in the dark of the stable waited for him to set out. She followed him many fersahs to a green valley surrounded by escarpments.

Berkant dismounted his lathered horse and set it grazing. Face alight with eagerness, he trotted up to a cave in the cliff.

Shocked, she watched him carelessly peel off his clothes and drop them as he climbed.

 

What Pegman Saw

 

In an ancient Turkish legend that goes back to the time of Gilgamesh, the Shahmaran is a creature whose head is a beautiful woman and whose body is a snake. She lives in the land of the snakes under the earth and lures unsuspecting lovers into her cave of honey. 

The Crossing

by

When Dwayne retired from Motorola we sold the house and spent a year driving the Caravan across the USA looking for the place we loved best. When we saw the ranch in Sasabe on the Sonoran border, we knew we’d found it. That was twenty years ago.

It was a year-round thing. They’d come through at night, parties of five or ten or twenty. Some men, but a lot of women and children. I got in the habit of setting out gallon jugs of water, packages of corn tortillas and cans of beans. Dwayne was furious when he found out.

 

Friday Fictioneers

Afoot on the Staked Plains

by

The man cut a Comanche arrow out of the mule’s flank after the fight at the tanks, but the festering wound would not knit.

Crossing the rain-swollen Nueces, the mule died under him and dumped his possibles into the churning red water.

He’d felt the animal falter as he spurred it down the bank, so he wasn’t surprised and managed to leap from the saddle, snatch up his powder and shot from the tree while he pulled his Walker Colt from his waistband. He waded ashore holding them aloft like holy relics.

But the man was afoot and it wasn’t two days before the half-breed Quanah and his band ran him down.

He managed to kill four of them before the Colt misfired. By then it was over.

The man spoke enough Comanche to understand what they had mind.

There was no comfort in this knowledge.

 

What Pegman Saw

 

Quanah Parker, the last chief of the Quahada Comanche Indians,  was the son of Peta Nocona and the white captive Cynthia Ann Parker. Among the Comanche, Quanah became an accomplished horseman and gradually proved himself to be an able leader.

The Quehadas refused to attend the Medicine Lodge Treaty Council or move to a reservation as provided by the treaty, so they became fugitives on the Llano Estacado. Beyond the effective range of the military, they continued to hunt buffalo in the traditional way while raiding settlements. 

For seven years Parker’s Quahadas held the Texas plains virtually uncontested.

Distraction

by

She should have known at the casting call, should have taken her son and walked out. Instead, she’d signed the contract. The lure of money was too powerful, and she’d been desperate.

A prank show, they said, like Candid Camera. Her son would be among other children at the museum, all in uniform. On cue they would begin screaming. The organizers wouldn’t say more.

When she studied the contract afterward, she found the rider about the chemical agent at the very bottom, in tiny print.

It was weeks before she knew the full scope of what she’d helped them do.

 

Friday Fictioneers

Breaking The Triangle

by

The East India Company Director sighed. He took off his glasses and set them on the dossier. “Is it really as bad as all that?”

“I’m afraid so, sir,” said Briggs. “In fact, it’s actually worse. The Chinese are well aware of our vulnerability, especially regarding tea. The tonne price is increasing almost daily.”

“What of all the opium we supposedly don’t sell them?” asked the general. “Why not increase that price in turn? They need that worse than we need tea, I expect.”

The magistrate shook his head. “The Emperor has declared the trade illegal, punishable by death. He ordered the Macao warehouses burned.”

“I suppose this means war,” said the general. He almost sounded pleased.

“One other thing, sir,” said Briggs. “I have a report from Mr. Jameson, a botanist. He’s surveyed a valley in Kashmir and believes that it will support tea production. Our own supply.”

 

What Pegman Saw: Kanrga Valley

 

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, there was tremendous demand in Europe for Chinese tea, silks, and porcelain pottery, but very little demand in China for Europe’s manufactured goods and other trade items. Consequently, Europeans had to pay for Chinese products with gold or silver.

The British struck upon an ingenious way to reduce a huge trade deficit. Their merchants bribed Chinese officials to allow entry of chests of opium from British-ruled India, though its importation had long been banned by imperial decree.

The production of tea in India by British concerns in Darjeeling and Kangra did much to alleviate this deficit since tea was the one thing that was impossible to find outside of China.

Time

by

Spring broke late and none too soon for Old Chuck. Winter, always hard, almost killed him. He’d lie sighing by the fire, trying to warm those old bones that had carried him over field and furrow, always by my side.

When morning slanted through the shutters he came and laid his grizzled muzzle in my lap in that familiar way.

“Sure thing, old boy.”

I got up and opened the front door. He tottered out on stiff legs, eyes milky in the sunlight as he sniffed the fresh new air. He did his business slowly, climbed onto the porch and lay still.

 

Friday Fictioneers

I Am Not A Ghost

by

He is like the landscape, ancient, fissured, desiccated. He is the last one left who saw it with his own eyes.

His voice scrapes like wind through dry branches as he tells the story he repeated all his life.

“When the Turks came, all of us ran to the mountain. We rolled stones down the hill onto them while the smoke from our burning houses followed us like a curse. I was small and hid in the rocks. They made my mother and sisters kneel as they cut off the men’s heads.”

His brown eyes cloud and he does not tell the rest.

Instead he speaks of the Capital City of Ani and its thousand churches, the silk road wealth that flowed like a river.

“My grandfather’s fig trees were ten meters high, each fig as large as your hand. Oh, how I would love to taste one again.”

What Pegman Saw: Armenia

 

In 1915, the world descended into war. Ottoman leaders decided to resolve their “Armenian problem” through extermination and deportation. Soldiers and local Kurdish militias shot Armenian men. There were mass rapes of women. Armenian villages and city neighborhoods were looted, appropriated. The dead clogged the rivers and wells. 

By the end of 1915, the Armenian population in the Ottoman Empire fell from about two million to fewer than 500,000. Most historians consider this the to be the modern world’s first genocide.

Ani was the medieval capital of a powerful, ethnically Armenian kingdom centered in eastern Anatolia, the sprawling Asiatic peninsula that today makes up most of Turkey. A rich metropolis, its bazaars overflowed with furs, with spices, with precious metals.

Today it is a scattering of shattered cathedrals and rubble atop a desolate plateau. The Turkish government has erected no markers explaining what happened there, or why.

Spontaneous Knotting of an Agitated String

by

A measure of knot complexity
is the number of minimum
crossings that must occur
when a knot is viewed
as a two-dimensional
projection

According to calculation
(yours, or anyone’s)

there are more tangled states than untangled
states. Thousands at least, when you shove
your headphones into your pocket

ready at last to listen

It took nothing for your cord
which is just another string
to achieve a tangled state

though you do not know it yet.
Entropy unnoticed

until, five seconds later

A string can be knotted
in many possible ways,
and a primary concern
of knot theory is to formally distinguish
and classify
all possible knots.

Oh how you swore, pulling
as you picked the twisted wires

with your fingertips
from the pocket
of your too-tight pants

designed for a person half your age

you act like
it’s a personal affront
this tangled inconvenience

how can something so simple
so quickly turn

into such a fucking mess

96% of all knots formed as known prime knots
having minimum crossing numbers
ranging from 3 to 11.
The prevalence of prime knots
is rather surprising,
because they are not
the only possible type of knot.

You succeed, finally
cram your fingers

deep in your ears

the tiny speakers
full of all that music
the soundtrack only you hear

I watch you leave
watch the floor

where your shadow was

I know you absolutely
are right or wrong.

Everything is personal

or nothing is.

 

The Daily Post: Twisted

Defining Moment

by

The little boy is inconsolable, his face twisted and red and sweaty, hot tears staining his shirt.

He’s perhaps three and has just learned the awful truth.

When the other children get taken to see the Disney movie at the Rialto, he will be left behind.

The earth has crumbled away beneath his feet.

Oh, how he screams.  He is all alone. Nobody cares.

He crawls wailing beneath the huge dining table, wraps his arms around the center post while he watches their legs getting ready to leave, hears them all talking about him in concerned tones.

 

Friday Fictioneers

Dance Fools Dance

by

Arnaldo, grasping at everything, gaining nothing. Random
as
a
moth,

and every bit as compelled.

The wicked flee
where none
pursue.

(perhaps this

badness was always within him, a cancerous rot
awaiting only a few drops of rain
to bring it forth.

A few drops of blood.)

Below her window he sang dulcet sonnets
in a language she could not speak.

But hast done evil above all that were before thee:
for thou hast gone and made thee other gods, and molten images,
to provoke me to anger,
and hast cast me

behind thy back:

The crones perch like songbirds in their wire chairs as he walks by.
Knowing smiles that lance
his soul
like daggers.

Every sin that a man
doeth is without
the body
but he that committeth fornication
sinneth against his own body.

It was in the morning she was first missed.
All her work

left undone.

 

What Pegman Saw